Alexa and Watson may soon be getting company in the board room, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook will debut two residential smart speakers – dubbed Aloha and Fiona – later this year, making the burgeoning voice assistant market even more crowded.
While Fiona and her higher-end counterpart Aloha will be primarily found in homes around the world, we’ve seen enough examples of residential products finding their ways into commercial applications to know it’s only a matter of time before that happens.
“Supply chain sources said that Facebook was originally slated to release the devices in May, but has decided to reschedule the launch to allow more time for perfecting the acoustic quality of the gadgets and software modification,” according to a report in Taipai-based website Digitimes.
Designed by Facebook’s Building 8 hardware lab, the Aloha model is reportedly more sophisticated than Fiona. Both will feature 15-inch touchscreens.
“The Aloha model, to be marketed under the official name Portal, will use voice commands but will also feature facial recognition to identify users for accessing Facebook via a wide-angle lens on the front of the device,” according to the Digitimes report.
Meeting with Fiona, Aloha, Alexa and Watson
According to the market research firm Canalys, the global smart speakers market is likely to double to over 50 million units in 2018.
There remain myriad security concerns with these smart speakers, so it might be a while before we see widespread adoption of them, especially in the boardrooms at large corporations. But there are enough CEOs who like what they can do for them at home that they’ll be willing to take the chance to bring that convenience with them to work.
Particularly in corporate settings, though, the true test of smart speakers and the control and automation market as a whole is how easy it is to use. Integrators have the ability—and in many cases the desire—to build complex systems that have seemingly unlimited functionality.
But if the user can’t either push a single button to start their meetings, or in the case of Fiona and her counterparts from Amazon, IBM and Google, if a single voice command doesn’t kick off the gathering, it won’t be long before they’re collecting dust in the corner of the decked-out conference room with the other “top-of-the-line” technology someone bought without actually knowing how to make it work.
So will Fiona become the next iPad? I’m not a huge fan of smart speakers and don’t have a Facebook account, so I don’t plan to be the first one in line to buy it, but I’m not naïve enough to think it won’t fly off the shelves when it’s released.
It’ll be interesting to see what the next product aimed at the residential market make the leap into the commercial space. Augmented and virtual reality are both trying to make that leap, but haven’t quite gotten the traction yet. What do you think it’ll be?